We drove away from the town of Motueka and The Tasman region with a certain amount of sadness. It had been a fantastic month.
The weather had been amazing. The house had been super comfortable and Whiskey had been great fun, but it was now time to move on.
We had rented a car for four days to get from Motueka to Christchurch where we had another house sitting job arranged for over the Christmas and New Year period. On the way we took the opportunity to see a little more of New Zealand.
Our first stop was in the Alpine resort of Hanmer Springs. Because of its location on the Pacific Ring of Fire, New Zealand is a hotbed for geothermal and volcanic activity. As such, many of the interesting places to visit are centered around this theme. Hanmer Springs is one example.
Resident of and visitors to the small town have been bathing in its hot spring water that bubbles up from subterranean rivers for over a hundred years. It is also a ski resort in Winter and a mountain biker paradise in Summer.
As the tourism has increased so has the visitors to the thermal springs and today, what was once a couple of rock pools, is now a huge pool complex which keeps people entertained for hours.
There are pools of differing temperatures, some are adults only, some are natural, some man-made. There is a play pool with two huge waterslides to entertain the kids (and wannabe kids, yes we did have a go!) There was even a lap pool for Steve to get some swim training in.
We had planned to spend the morning at the pools, but when lunch time came we got dressed, visited the on site café and then afterwards got back in the water for a couple of more hours. We had a great day.
We were staying at an old forestry worker’s site which had been converted to an educational outward bound facility which also catered for passing tourists. It was rough around the edges and our accommodation was basic, but it had a great communal kitchen and a lounge where we sat both evenings chatting to some really interesting people from different walks of life. Some were born in New Zealand, some had emigrated here, and some were visiting like ourselves.
After our short spell in Hanmer Springs we continued South. One thing we are quickly learning about New Zealand is that once you leave even a small town it can be quite a way before you arrive at the next one. Facilities are minimal but the scenery is amazing.
Our next stop was just South of Christchurch on the Banks Pennisula. We had never heard of this place but it looked really interesting when we looked at a satellite image of the area. We found a Bed and Breakfast place which looked interesting, perched high on the peninsula. The experience, however, was not what we were expecting.
When we arrived the property was, as we had thought, at the top of a very steep road. We were greeted by Brenda, a lady in her early 70’s. She showed us to our beautiful room with a totally amazing view out over Christchurch and the Cantebury Plains. A few steps up the accommodation ladder from our place in Hanmer!
Brenda then invited us through into the house for a cup of tea. Sometimes you meet people and gradually get to know them and become friends over time. Sometimes you meet people and within 10 minutes you know they are going to be great fun and your kind of person. Brenda was in the second category.
We instantly liked her and in no time at all we were all laughing and joking together. She had lived an interesting life and was genuinely interested in our travels.
It turned out she was hosting a dinner party that evening for some of her old college friends who still meet up on a regular basis. We met them as they arrived and Brenda introduced us to her wonderful friends, all of whom wanted to know our story.
Brenda cooked us some chicken to go with our pasta and we mixed into the chaotic but friendly kitchen. We decided to eat separately so as not to invade their Christmas dinner party, but as it was rounding up two other guests arrived for the second B&B room. Brenda called us in to meet them. Janet and Brent were two Kiwis from a small town down near Queenstown who were meeting up with family in Christchurch for Christmas. Our 30 second “hello”, quickly turned into a half hour plus chat and we got on instantly with them. They had recently retired and were looking for inspiration on what to do. The eating at the dinner party was winding up and somehow we got sucked back into the conversation. They were all interesting people who had led different but successful lives.
Eventually we escaped to bed and awoke the next morning to a wonderful breakfast spread put on by Brenda. Janet and Brent joined us but Janet was not too happy, complaining at Steve that she had wanted an early night but had stayed up far too late reading our blog! She had really enjoyed it.
Our quick breakfast turned into a two hour plus affair chatting away about travel and the current state of New Zealand. When we spend a significant amount of time in a country we like to visit the well known, and not so well known places, but we also like to see how the country works. It’s amazing how a lot of countries are so similar in many ways with the same problems and concerns. They are just on different scales and dealt with by different methods. Economy, Crime, Education, Health etc. are issues everywhere. Sometimes people seem so different and in the next breath so alike. It’s strange.
We got on so well with Janet and Brent that we were invited to visit them on our road trip and we will do our utmost to make it happen.
As evidenced by our lengthy breakfast we were in no rush to move on. We were not expected at our house sit until late afternoon and other than a few bits of shopping to do, we had no plans. So Steve offered Brenda two hours of his time to do any jobs she needed doing in her big garden.
Brenda had no hesitation on taking him up on the offer and set him about moving a massive pile of wood chippings that had been left near the entrance, to a better location so she could use them to create a path at a later date.
Steve looked at the job, did a quick calculation, and thought that if he had an extra pair of hands to pull out some weeds, help spread the chippings, and if both people worked fast they could pretty much get the chippings moved and the path done in a couple of hours our so. “Now, who could help me”, he thought. “Sarah”, came the shout.
Soon we were both hard at it and Brenda came out to supervise and help. By lunch time we had all but finished and Brenda was over the moon saying Santa had sent her two elves to help her.
Although we had only been at Brenda’s for 24 hours it had been a thoroughly rewarding stop. We had met some great people and had some great laughs.
It was now time to go and meet Baxter, the Springer Spaniel, who we would be looking after for the next couple of weeks.
The best way to describe Baxter was a loveable rogue and was a real character. We loved our time looking after him but it was sometimes hard work, especially for Sarah as she did a lot of the walking while Steve was out working hard on his bike.
The house, which was very comfortable, was situated only a few minutes drive from a fantastic forest and also a long, wide, rugged beach.
Baxter was in his element in both locations and we loved them both too. The forest was criss crossed by what seemed like a labyrinth of pathways for walking, mountain biking and horse riding. Although we had a map of sorts it was still difficult to navigate. In fact, one day an hour’s walk turned into three hours! It did seem a common theme as we met others who were totally lost.
The beach was probably Baxter’s favourite. His three passions in life seemed to be a ball, getting wet and stealing food. The beach provided unlimited access to the first two as he constantly chased a ball through the sand and into the waves. His energy seemed endless.
When we got him home it was no problem cleaning him up though, as he loved being washed down with the garden hose and then rolling around on the lawn to dry off. Yet again we were very lucky with the weather which made it all very easy.
We took him further afield to Akaroa and The Banks Peninsula, both of which offered incredible scenery, probably the best we have seen in New Zealand so far. Utterly stunning.
When in the house Baxter employed the three second rule. In that anything left unattended for more than three seconds was fair game. Including raw chicken, a ham sandwich, Steve’s protein bars, flip flops, socks, the list goes on and on. “Baxter, No!”, was easily our most used phrase.
Even with his naughty streak we really bonded with Baxter just as we had with Whiskey up in Abel Tasman. But our dog and house sitting days were coming to an end and it was time for us to get out and really see New Zealand. It was time to get back to the style of travel we loved so much in Australia. We are getting back in a campervan for two months and, hopefully, there are plenty of adventures to be had.